61. Long, Long, Long

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A/N: Warning - Serious issues and sensitive, distressing topics discussed frankly ahead! 

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It's been a long, long, long time
How could I ever have lost you
When I loved you?


Much of Liverpool is smaller than I remember. The houses and buildings have shrunk, the streets are narrower and more windy than I recall. And it seems the people are smaller too; shorter in stature, slumped, bent over. Old.

But Calderstones Park feels, if anything, bigger. It's fields and trees stretch on, miles of wide open spaces, wooded paths and gardens, encapsulated by a black spiked fence and sandstone wall which runs around the ninety-four acre perimeter.

I don't think I've been here since George left for Hamburg. We used to come here a lot before Germany and The Beatles and leaving home. I've missed it. I've realised that I have missed all of Liverpool. It wasn't Liverpool I ran away from.

There are two Greek looking statues at the entrance to Calderstones Park supporting the gates, like Atlas holding up the sky, and two more statues either side. They represent the four seasons and the passage of time. Inside the park there are open fields, where children play in the summer, a large boating lake, a grandiose house and lots of trees, bushes and plants. There's a botanical garden not far in, which looks rather sorry for itself in the winter when all the flowers are dead.

George brought us here and parked a little way from the gates. I don't know if there's anything significant in him coming here, or whether it was just the nearest place he could think where we'd have a chance at not being seen and recognised.

'Can you walk?' he asked, unfastening his seatbelt, his eyes going to my bump.

'Yes, for a while,' I replied.

George walks next to me in silence. He's not holding my hand. It's not that kind of a walk. I can't look at him. Instead, I stare at the path in front of us and the fields beyond it. It's cold. There's a biting wind, which would dry any tears that might try to form in my eyes. Strange thing is, I don't really feel like crying.

As we walked through the gates and under the branches of tall ash and oak trees, George asked. The one thing I've always dreaded him asking. The one question I could never answer. A simple question, which has a very complicated answer.

'Why did you leave Liverpool?'

He knows there's no easy answer to this question. It's why he's not said anything for the last fifteen minutes either. Other people would badger for a reply, or they'd try to coax it out of you. At very least, some might fill the empty silence with talking, offering platitudes or advice.

George isn't like that. George just waits. He doesn't pressure. He doesn't pry. Even as intimately as we know each other, he still respects my privacy. But if I tell him this - if I do - it will change everything. It will slaughter the Hannah he thinks he knows. The image of Hannah he has. She'll cease to exist and then there will be no going back for us.

Still, as we walk, I am holding the knife to her throat. I have been ever since I realised that I could tell him this. I could and moreover, I should.

She's not struggling, she's not fighting. She's scared, but at the same time, she's ready to go.

The park is abandoned. We don't see another soul as we go down the path through the trees. It takes a while to find the Calderstones of Calderstones Park, six large Neolithic stones which are said to be older than Stonehenge. They've been moved. They were outside the gates when I was a child. They're inside a greenhouse in the botanical gardens now. We walk past, not even pausing to look at them properly.

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